- For over a decade, the East Africa single tourist visa programme has been discussed and proposed by EAC governments.
- Rwanda maintains that the East Africa single tourist visa will help market the entire region as a single tourist destination.
- The response from Tanzania is promising compared to the non-committal stance in previous engagements.
Buy a visa to Rwanda and get to visit all of Tanzania’s and Kenya’s tourist attractions. In fact, with that single visa you can tour all the 7 countries of East Africa. This is what the East Africa single tourist visa programme proposes.
Tanzania is home to some of the World’s most revered tourist attractions; the likes of the highest mountain in Africa, The Kilimanjaro; the Serengeti, home to the world’s largest wildebeest migration and the Ngorongoro crater, where visitors can see the world’s only known tree climbing lions and deemed the 8th wonder of the World not to mention the white sandy beaches of the renown spice islands of Zanzibar.
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Tanzania also hosts the Mountain gorillas, the marvelous grey-backs. A single visa to visit all of Tanzania’s attractions and those in Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, South Sudan and even the DR Congo could be game changer for the region.
For over a decade, the East Africa single tourist visa programme has been discussed and proposed by EAC governments but Tanzania has been reluctant to pursue this line of regional integration.
Tourism is Tanzania’s largest foreign exchange earner second only to gold and those tables only swayed lightly owing to the global pandemic. It will be a long time coming before the country offers its largest cash cow for all to milk, so to speak.
Most recently, local media reported a move by Rwanda to convince Tanzania to open its doors and allow the rest of East Africa to gain from this lucrative segment.
Through its diplomatic envoy, Major General Charles Karamba, Rwanda called on Tanzania to reconsider the importance of the East Africa Single Tourist Visa programme. The pleas worked for Kenya, which shares the single tourist visa with Rwanda, not so Tanzania.
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“The ambassador informed the minister that the main point of his visit was to look together at how Rwanda and Tanzania can partner in the field of tourism; the need to cooperate in facilitating tourist car drivers to cross the borders, as well as expediting the process of addressing the issue of the East African Single Tourist Visa that has persisted for a long time,” read’s the released official statement of a recent meeting between the Rwanda envoy and Tanzania’s Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Pindi Hazara Chana,.
Rwanda maintains that the East Africa single tourist visa will help market the entire region as a single tourist destination but as pointed out, with over 17 national parks, 40 reserves and several marine parks, Tanzania has felt it would be offering its natural resources to neighboring countries without much reciprocal gain.
“The ambassador informed the minister about how Rwanda and Tanzania can cooperate in the field of expos, especially because both countries have some things in common in their cultures,” the government statement read in part.
Cultural exchange, well there is something Tanzania might be inclined to consider, a long as it doesn’t mean the same visa gets you a free pass to its 40 plus wildlife reserves.
Rwanda may be making some get-way with the new minister because local media quotes Tanzania’s minister Chana as having promised to ‘closely follow up on the issue of the single tourist visa.’
Well, over a decade down the road and it might finally turn out that all you need to tour all of East Africa’s 7 countries and their numerous wildlife sanctuaries is a single visa.
The response from Tanzania is promising compared to the non-committal stance in previous engagements about the single tourist visa. However, there are still hurdles before the visa gets a green light
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“Everybody would want to have it but there are some pre-requisite factors, especially harmonising immigration policies and ICT to help ease the process. We are pushing it but we realized it requires a lot of consultations because we need to be at the same level,” admitted Rica Rwigamba, Rwanda’s former in charge of Tourism and Conservation at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) said some years ago.
Her efforts have not gone in vain as her successors seem to be gaining ground. Back then, reasons like major differences in ICT development were laid on the table making it difficult to coordinate the proposed Eat Africa single tourist visa.
It had been pointed out back then that while Rwanda was already issuing online visa application options, the rest of East Africa was yet to catch up, making the East Africa single tourist visa difficult to adopt.
That was over a decade ago, now most of East Africa is at par when it comes to ICT. Tanzania, the most reluctant party on the East Africa single tourist visa now supplies most of the region with network connectivity through the undersea fibre optic cable, so ICT can no longer be an excuse.
Originally, the single tourist visa was envisioned to come into been as early as 2012. Among its supposed many benefits, this single visa was expected to save potential tourists time and the hustle of going from one embassy to the next to apply for different visas to cross into different countries across the East African region.
“Today travelers want to have a much wider menu. And it is easier to market the block as a single destination as opposed to one country. It means having features like the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda, Maasai Mara in Kenya, Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, among others, all on one menu,” Rwigamba had suggested.
“The long procedures in acquiring visa by tourists, especially those from Europe, the Americas sometimes discourages them, forcing them to divert to other destinations,” she argued.
Backing up the sentiments, the EAC Sectoral Council on Tourism and Wildlife Management moved to urge the bloc’s partner states to speed up process necessary to introduce the EAC single tourist visa.
The chips are on the table, now it remains to be seen if Tanzania will let the rest of East Africa milk its cash cow and if so, what will the country gain in return?